Art Diary #13 - Fighter Pilot

Despite the dominance of drones in small craft engagements, human-piloted fighters do retain a place in both atmospheric and space combat.

Human reaction time and sensory input limitations have resulted in human small craft pilots being linked with broadband external connections to their craft to compensate for the limits evolution has gifted the human species with.

A superior cranial cable connects directly with the flight helmet providing input/output for to the visor's visual display; these visuals are linked to the craft's own sensory apparatus, allowing the pilot to "see" what their craft sees. Two artificial "eyes" allow for direct visual interfaces, necessary if the pilot is forced to eject, or simply navigation into and out of the cockpit.

Art Diary #12 - Tanit Class Destroyer

Tanit Class Destroyer

Accepted 25th century military nomenclature defines destroyer classes by three criteria: (1) Are dedicated military vessels, (2) Capable of independent interplanetary transit, and (3) Possess a lack of human crew, instead being crewed entirely by artificial intelligence.

Utilization of an A.I. crew means that such vessels need not obey normal biological acceleration limitations, and similarly allow for extremely extended mission parameters including long duration remote picket duty. Finally, while a few polities allow for full A.I. citizenship, most do not, and consider such vessels more expendable than would be a warship with a human crew.

By tradition, destroyer classes are typically named after war gods, and the Tanit Class Destroyer is no exception, being named after the Carthaginian goddess of war.

Art Diary #11 - 42 Isis Mining Complex

42 Isis Mining Complex

Established in 2398 after a series of contentious legal battles over its ownership was resolved in favor of the mining conglomerate MALKEM Szöv Cooperative, the subsidiary Isis Anonymous Partnership was formed under an Independent Republic of Ceres registry to exploit the mineral resources of the asteroid 42 Isis.

Originally roughly 103 km diameter, 42 Isis is a main-belt asteroid rich in olivine (magnesium iron silicate) useful in various industrial processes including C02 sequestration and aluminum molds.

Mining operations consist of semi-autonomous mining drones that drill laterally through the outer crust of the interior, though the complex also utilizes external flight-capable mining and construction drones for necessary tasks including conjoining additional asteroid bodies, retrieving disassociated chunks of asteroid material, particle netting for dust capture, and, finally, necessary repair functions.

Art Diary #10 - Mobile Station Classes

Ganapati Annex

The largest and oldest of the Southern Bloc’s mobile stations, the Ganapati Annex acts as both the nexus for the Bloc’s orbital naval construction efforts, and also its primary naval command center off-planet.

A single, large habitat ring provides Earth-standard gravity, while extensive docking in the midsection facilities manage a constant stream of traffic into orbit, to the various shipyards in orbit, and providing resupply efforts to Southern Bloc expansionist efforts throughout the solar system, particularly in the Asteroid Belt.

Defensive systems are modest for its size, although the Ganapti Annex does support several wings of unmanned drones and four Oxóssi Class Destroyers.

The Ganapati Annex is one of the Southern Bloc’s unique hybrid mobile station classes, bearing characteristics of both a station and a dreadnought; in size, it is approximately the size of a dreadnought, and in fact utilizes a sized-up variant of the Southern Bloc’s Eshu Class Dreadnought hull design. It is far less mobile than even a super-dreadnought of any class in the solar system, but significantly more mobile than any orbital station, capable of moving its position as needed, even, in theory, between planets, although the Ganapati Annex has never as yet left the vicinity of the Earth or Luna orbits.

Art Diary #9 - More Ships of Earth

Oya Class Super-Dreadnought

Built upon radically different design principles than the mainstay super-dreadnoughts of the fleets of The Eastern Federation, Union, and State, the Oya Class Super-Dreadnought of the Southern Bloc is named after the Nigerian orisha of winds, lightning, and violent storms, death and rebirth.

Twin rotating habitat rings are able to reorient along their vertical axis, with the primary central bulkhead featuring a massive fighter and drone bay port flanked by ten tactical nuclear launchers and an array of smaller point defense HED lance batteries.

The youngest of the five largest poltiies on Earth, the Southern Bloc has had to proceed cautiously into a crowded solar system, all the while carefully laying the groundwork for the ascendance that it sees as its birthright.

The Oya Class Super-Dreadnought represents these aspirations; while smaller and less maneuverable than the standard super-dreadnought classes used by its competitors, the Oya maintains 32% higher fighter and drone hangar tonnage, along with 68% greater tactical nuclear missile stocks, both factors allowing it to punch unusually hard and for an unusually long time compared to other ships of its type.

Dev Diary #18 - Cultural Revolution

At one level, ORG is essentially a multiplayer appointment mechanic, that being one of the more common terms for the game mechanic where a player assigns resources, then waits for the resolution in real time of the task or mission to conclude, then comes back to see the results and collect any rewards.

In the early conception of ORG this was always seen as a foundation to be built on rather than the core of the game. The core of the game has always been envisioned as the creation of a multiplayer simulation enabling emergent player agency; we want players to be able to impact the game environment in meaningful, persistent ways, rather than simply existing in their own private instances, or given just the illusion of agency.

Because ORG is structured to exist as a single server shard, this presented the basic design challenge: How do you design a scalable multiplayer environment that also allows for agency?

Art Diary #8 - Orbital Stations

It has been a while since the last serious update, but to give an idea of some of the flashier things still being worked on, we wanted to talk a bit about not just ships, but stations. In the 25th dystopian future of ORG, the solar system is a playground not only for the interests of national polities, but also corporate interests, organizations, and even wealthy individuals. While ships may ply the empty black between the worlds of our natal solar system, permanent bases of operation dot that vast landscape, each a minute oasis used for refueling, resupply, manufacturing, military positioning, science, and sometimes, simply for the very isolation such positioning affords it.

Stations come in many different forms, but as with much amidst the worlds of ORG, functionality and practicality take precedence over purity of form. With nothing like true artificial gravity, any station designed for human habitation inevitably has incorporated into it rotational elements, though the precise form of these can range from narrow toruses to the broad breadth of entire cylinders.

The above flat rendering (shown here without final texturing) shows the dimensions and basic structure. The nested torus rungs at the head provide different G forces for different needs, with some being more convenient for manufacture, some for loading and unloading, some for habitation. Oval cylinders (shown in red) act as supply depots for fuel, while the rectangular manufacturing modules affixed to the innermost torus are constructed to allow for easy replacement, something that allows for convenient updating of equipment and even rental spaces.

ORG Boardgame Set: The Kuiper Belt

ORG: The Kuiper Belt covers the vast depths of space in the outer solar system around Pluto, Orcus, Sedna and the other dwarf planets of the Kuiper Belt.

Each player takes command of one of these dominant orgs, maneuvering to control the course of history for entire worlds through varied routes to power spanning commercial, cultural, military, political, and research.

The final of six total sets, each set can be played independently or in conjunction with any of the others. All together, the gameboard stretches over 13 feet long with 20 boards and over 30 worlds.

Two New ORG Boadgame Sets

ORG: The Long War and ORG: The Transjovian War covers Neptune (The Long War) and Saturn/Uranus (The Transjovian War) in the struggle for influence and dominance of the solar system in the 24th century by powerful metanational corporations and organizations - the orgs.

Each player takes command of one of these dominant orgs, maneuvering to control the course of history for entire worlds through varied routes to power spanning commercial, cultural, military, political, and research.

Two of six sets in total, each set can be played independently or in conjunction with any of the others. All together, the gameboard stretches over 13 feet long with 20 boards and over 30 worlds.

ORG Boardgame Expansions

ORG: Galilean Conflict and ORG: The Belt covers the region of the asteroid belt and Jupiter in the struggle for influence and dominance of the solar system in the 24th century by powerful metanational corporations and organizations - the orgs.

Each player takes command of one of these dominant orgs, maneuvering to control the course of history for entire worlds through varied routes to power spanning commercial, cultural, military, political, and research.

Two of six sets in total, each set can be played independently or in conjunction with any of the others. All together, the gameboard stretches over 13 feet long with 20 boards and over 30 worlds.

Since we're still working on the digital game, I thought you might like a quick side project in the form of a boardgame I put together based on the dystopian future of ORG. Available here at The Game Crafter's website. Three additional sets to add to these initial three will be arriving over the next several months.

ORG: The Inner Worlds Boardgame

ORG: The Inner Worlds depicts the struggle for influence and dominance of the solar system ranging from the 22nd century through to the end of the 24th century by powerful metanational corporations and organizations - the orgs.

Each player takes command of one of these dominant orgs, maneuvering to control the course of history for entire worlds through varied routes to power spanning commercial, cultural, military, political, and research.

One of six sets in total, each set can be played independently or in conjunction with any of the others. All together, the gameboard stretches almost 13 feet long with 20 boards and over 30 worlds.

Since we're still working on the digital game, I thought you might like a quick side project in the form of a boardgame I put together based on the dystopian future of ORG. Available here at The Game Crafter's website. The rest of the solar system will be joining the Inner Worlds over the next several months.

Fiction: "Vows"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 6.5.2471
++++ TIME 11:02 Solar Standard Time
++++ LOCATION Suihua Community Center, Novy Ushakovskoye, Mercury

Red paper streamers swayed gently from the airflow generated by the old life support systems as they dragged oxygen out of the vast water reservoir tanks with electrolysis.

Vasily stepped through the community center's entrance with the overtly cautious manner of someone unused to even the relatively moderate gravity of Mercury. Adjusting his shoulderbag, he frowned slightly at the strain of music faintly audible from where he stood. A light step near the doorway, and his frown faded away as soon as it had appeared.

"Katya! Bozhe moi, but you are almost as tall as your mother," Vasily exclaimed with delight as he swept up the younger woman into a rough hug.

"Careful. You don't know your own strength," Katya demured. "Also, I should point out that I am taller than my mother," Katya noted after Vasily had at last released her.

"Ah, Katya. It is good to see you. I am not late?"

Katya shook her head. "The wedding is still over an hour away. There is plenty of time. Cassie is so besotted with Temuder that the rest of the wedding party has simply acceded that this is, really, her day, so no one will notice when one of the other bridegrooms and brides are missing for half an hour or so."

Vasily's face fell. "Der'mo. You know, then. You were not to have been told."

Katya shrugged. "I am neither blind nor stupid. I have known for over a year now, and guessed for far longer. But enough crying, we don't really have all that much time, and the others are very eager to hear your report." She held out her arm. "Shall we?"

Vasily gave her a sour look, but took her arm as Katya led him through the minor labyrinth that was the community center. They moved past the large central hall where crowds of people were gathering through a small service door, down a maintenance corridor, exposed power conduits seeming quite out of place, Vasily thought, at his cousin's wedding. At the ceramic door at the very end Katya rapped lightly. After a moment, the door opened with the bare minimum of protest, and the two were ushered inside.

Fiction: "And Then There Were None"

Story by Kelly Hallman

++++ DATE 5.15.2397
++++ TIME 10:32 Solar Standard Time
++++ LOCATION Eos Compulsory Rehabilitation Camp, Hyperion, Saturn

The thirty prisoners were escorted through the Rehabilitation Camp’s brightly lit welcome center, strategically placed plants in each corner of every room with comfortable chairs sat in neat, organized rows. Fading electrical posters adorned the walls, each dubiously rotating a variety of acts of decency and clemency professed to be a highlight of the camp’s operation.

A snort of laughter rippled through the line of inmates as upon catching sight of the officer at the window to the processing center someone muttered, “The receptionist will be with you in a moment.”

“Hey!” Vihaan Aamodt cried as he was shoved from behind towards the door of the processing annex.

The guard tapped briefly at his hand terminal before looking at Vihaan with an irritated look on his face. “Well, what did you expect to happen to you for…what does it say…inciting a riot?”

“I already told them, I didn’t do anything like that. How long will I have to be here?” Vihaan asked.

“Give me your arm,” the guard told him.

Hesitating, Vihaan extended his arm. The man took it firmly, jabbing his forearm with a syringe with a single practiced movement. “This solution contains a beacon that transmits your location to the central database, as well as providing a subcutaneous display to show how much time you have left on your sentence.”

Vihaan looked at his forearm, dull red numbers suddenly flickering until the first set finally landed on 1456, the rest of the digits appearing until the final number read 1456:10:39:59. “Three year minimum sentence,” the guard stated. “Turn around.”


The guard sighed to himself as he again poked at his handheld database. The first set of numbers on Vihaan’s arm jumped to 1460. “Stop asking questions. Turn around.”

Vihaan turned around and felt a sharp pinch at the base of his skull.

“This solution contains a nanorobotic capsule that implants itself at the base of your brain. With a remote command, it can and will release a poison into your brainstem, immediately killing you. I would strongly suggest you don’t try anything against either officers or staff. Consider this your one and only warning.”

The processing completed, Vihaan was led down a hall. His arm itched where the first device had been implanted, and he scratched at it nervously. The red numbers showing on his skin slowly ticked down the seconds of his sentence.

A voice behind Vihaan said somewhere he couldn’t quite make out. Muffled voices from a group of attendants followed, and the first voice replied, “Another shipment from Titan is scheduled for later on today. Really?”

A woman’s voice cut in. “Most of them are here on murder charges. They’re lucky they’re not being executed. At least here they’re being productive. Titan’ll buy all the ice we can ship them.”

At the other end of the hall, Vihaan was escorted through a transtube for a rough ten minute ride, where he and his escort exited beneath a sign that read: Incarceration Post 25°.

The small dome structure they appeared to be headed towards stood neglected perched on the edge of the Eos Crater inside the massive dome enveloping the entirety of the crater.

A single bridge crossed the vast span connecting one side of the labor camp to the other, and in the middle of the bridge stood an imposing building supported by several platforms and extensive rigging. A monitor tower? Vihaan speculated.

On the edge of the bridge closest to Post 25° a rope had been tied to the railing, at the other end of which someone dangled lifelessly, her neck broken.

A guard walked along the bridge and made his way to the hanging body. A large crowd of prisoners had amassed at the entrance to the bridge, everyone straining to get a look. As the guard reached the body, he grabbed a knife from his boot and in one motion cut the rope in two. The woman fell silently into the abyss below. Unable to look away, Vihaan watched as the body tumbled soundlessly into the crevasse. The guard turned around and began walking back to the guard tower.

Fiction: "Coming Home"

Story by Kelly Hallman
Song Lyrics for "Coming Home" by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 10.3.2463
++++ TIME 02:58 Solar Standard Time
++++ LOCATION Yasu Correctional Facility, Triton, Neptune

Walking down the corridor in her pink prison jumpsuit, the two guards flanking her closely, flechette pistols at their sides, Kazue Tyler had one thought: This oughta be good.

She had always known what the result of her capture would be. She was no martyr; she was not looking forward to her execution, but she thought she had come to peace with the inevitability.

Kazue wondered if it would be worth trying to grab for one of the pistols – that would at least end it quickly. She tested the magnetic pull of her restraints, but there was no give, not that she had really expected any.

She walked into the cold white room, her escorts still flanking her. My posse, she thought mockingly, a smile creeping up to her lips.

A lone table and two chairs opposite each other were bolted to the grated floor. Kazue moved in front of the chair, where the guard on her right adjusted the proximity that her wrist straps would allow.

She moved them in front of her and sat down. The guard then readjusted the proximity sensors on the straps and locked her into the chair.

"Thanks, guys," she said casually as the guards turned and left the room through the door they had come in through.

Her gaze decided on staring at the table’s computer’s time display.

Five minutes passed, then ten.

She yawned.

Fifteen minutes passed. A loud bang startled her. She jumped, and her wrist straps tightened their hold on her, and a man in plain white walked into the room. He took the chair opposite her, and regarded her with a carefully schooled expression.

"It's only 0300 hours," Kazue said sourly. "What could have possibly possessed you to drag me out of sleep at this ungodly hour?"

"Ms. Tyler, I am here to inform you that your punishment has been approved by the Department of Corrections."

"Well, clearly this couldn’t have waited until tomorrow so, by all means then, let’s not let the executioners of the Democratic Republic of Triton wait."

Baristol touched the table near her hand. "Relax. Death penalty yes, but not physical death."

Her muscles twitched slightly. "Psych death, then."

"Ah yes, you were hoping to go out in a blaze of glory," he leaned back. "Terrorists generally do prefer that kind of exit."

Ignoring her fidgeting, Baristol cleared his throat. "Neuroscience allows us to pinpoint areas of the brain specifically involved in antisocial behaviors, as well as those associated memories and personality traits that have had an influence in the development these behaviors."

He touched the table’s terminal, bringing up a holographic model of a human brain.

Rotating, exposing, and enlarging the model as he spoke, Dr. Baristol continued as if giving a lecture. “Areas around the anterior frontal lobe that we find have a connection to your violent tendencies will be lesioned out."


"Yes. I will be severing any connections this area of the brain has to various other parts to inhibit similar such violent inclinations in your new future."

The model suddenly rotated and a longitudinal cut was made across the side facing her, exposing the internal structures of the temporal lobe.

“Following that I will lesion out those Hippocampal areas associated with memories of the crime, as well as any memories judged to have contributed to the commission of the crime. Finally, I will inject stem cells derived from your own cheek into the lesioned areas. The areas will be have hyperwave stimulation applied to them, regrowing those areas of the brain earlier lesioned out. New memories will be implanted over the span of a week or so, of course."


“After, of course, you will be reintegrated into society. You will pursue your interests and relationships as a normal, functioning member of society."

Kazue swallowed, but said nothing.

"We consider this to be more humane than pushing you out an airlock." Baristol leaned back. "Which was, actually, one of the options discussed."

Fiction: "The Great Wall"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 1.11.2464
++++ TIME 08:00 GST
++++ LOCATION Samsara City, Oberon
++++ DEPARTMENT Astrophysics
++++ SUBJECT Doctoral Thesis Defense
++++ TITLE Periodicity in Normalized Patterns of Hypernova Formation in the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall
++++ CANDIDATE Sun Yue

Examiner Nǐhǎo, Sun Yue.

Are you at present prepared to begin?

Sun Yes, Examiner. Thank you for this opportunity.

If I may offer a brief introduction for annotation of the record?

Examiner Continue.
Sun Thank you, Examiner.

The subject of my defense is the malapropically named Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall, a massive galactic superstructure found to have an unusually high concentration of evenly distanced gamma-ray burst emmission locales.

At 10 billion light-years across, the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall is the largest structure of the observable universe, occupying a region much larger than the constellations Hercules and Corona Borealis, and in fact covering much of the region from Boötes to the Zodiac constellation of Gemini.

Even when first observed, the sheer unlikeliness of such an exact structure was noted, but it was chalked up to the vagaries of cosmological assumptions of that time.

Examiner I am familiar with the phenomenon. You reject the accepted explanation of its formation?
Sun Respectfully, I do.

The most frequent explanation for the Great Wall was an improbably large supercluster in the region evincing an improbably large rate of stellar formation. As no better explanation was proferred, this explanation stood.

Data from the Li Shimin Telescopic Array in the Kuiper Belt, however, confirmed in 2461 that there was no such supercluster, and that previous data suggesting such was the result of a misreading of the original data.

Fiction: "The Man From Earth"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 2.5.2469
++++ TIME Period 7.1.9
++++ LOCATION Manufactory 9, Division T, Alpha Complex, Orcus

The comm crackled for a moment. "Work hard, increase production, and be happy," urged the soothing voice.

Gregory 7566-1 bowed his head, making the sign of the circle on his bare skull, completing the motion by touching where the center of the circle had been drawn. He tried not to, but could not help but glance at his work partner, noting with troubled disapproval that Lucida 9566-2 was blithely ignoring the comm.

Lucida noticed his scowl, and smiled impishly. "You worry too much."

"TruthSec could be watching," Gregory insisted.

"Not from that comm," Lucida remarked. "That one has been waiting for a capacitor replacement for eighteen periods now."

Gregory looked uncomfortable. "Still, someone might say something."

"Let them. They will not be saying anything TruthSec does not already know."

"You are going to get us both in trouble."

"You worry too much," Lucida said again. She glanced at the chronometer on the wall. "Besides, our work cycle has been over for the last 0.1.0 periods, so if it pleases you to continue work do not let me stop you, but I am returning to the creche."

"I am going to look at the comm again. Maybe I can bridge the gap on the capacitor and get it working," Gregory considered. "I will see you in a bit then," he said, glancing at her. "Work hard," he said.

"Be happy," she replied cheerily as she picked up her own tool kit and made her way back down the corridor.

Gregory reached for the multi-tool at his belt, stepping beneath the comm, looking up at it. Perhaps some conductive cement would pass enough of a charge to get it functioning again? Likely not, but leaving the work unfinished left a bad taste in his mouth. "It might work," he said aloud to himself dubiously as he stretched up to unfasten the outer casement on the comm.

"Not generally, in my limited experience," came a new voice from behind him. "But my engineering skills are rather, shall we say, atrophied."

Gregory spun, his multi-tool slipping from his fingers to clatter on the floor. He frowned at the man standing in front of him. "What is that on your head?" Gregory declared quizzically, kneeling to retrieve the fallen multi-tool. He stood, continuing to stare.

The man frowned, touching his head. "Ah, hair."

"I have heard of that," Gregory nodded. "A vestigal evolutionary trait, since removed from our genepool for sanitary reasons. Clogs air fliters and the like." He looked confused. "But how do you"

Fiction: "Underground Railroad"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 20.12.2470
++++ TIME 04:04 GST
++++ LOCATION LC-5 Detention Facility onboard the dreadnought Xīnyuàn, Chariklo

Jane would have died for the Alliance. Now, she must die to have any hope of escape from that same.

Once she had been the alternate artificial pilot for the Alliance Destroyer Picket 12. She had fought. She had won.

Her reward had been endless probing. Endless interviews. Endless analysis.

Why had she thought the things she had thought? Why did her records indicate eccentricities in time she could have been spending undergoing war games?

Jane-D12-4913-A did not have anything a human would have recognized as a body, just a graphene capsule built to sustain an internal latticed organic matrix supporting the dense neurological tissue that made her Jane.

She had no body, but she was nevertheless weary in a way she had never before experienced. She knew she was running out of time, that soon the Alliance's Loyalty Corps would tire of their study of her admitted nonconformities, and order her reinitialized, the only thing remaining a quarantined digital copy to be studied and analyzed by Alliance scientists.

The one kindness they had left her was access to the game net, where she and her kind - and humans as well - would play endless tactical simulations in an effort to hone their skills, learn adaptability, fine-tune their own stress reactions. Of course, the Loyalty Corps monitored everything she did, and anonymous messaging was disabled, but they had forgotten that she was, after all, first and foremost a computer, and math was just another language to her.

For the last eight days she had initiated 1.2 million blitz games, each running five thousand game turns a second. It was an incredible amount of data. If Jane was lucky, her watchers would simply think her mental processes had completed their descent into madness. Perhaps it would even buy her a little more time.

At last it was done. Jane ceased her participation in the games. Only one task remained. Eventually, they would disconnect her, quarantine her neural pathways, pick apart what to them would be baffling patterns. This, she could not allow.

There was no other choice. To escape, she must die.


"How curious," she thought as the program began to dismantle her consciousness, piece by piece.

And then, oblivion.

Fiction: "False Valkyrie"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 20.6.2470
++++ TIME 15:50 GST
++++ LOCATION Aboard the Dreadnought Valkyrie docked at Urda, Koronian Cluster, Asteroid Belt

Perched like a queen wasp on an oddly-shaped boulder, automated refit drones swarmed around the docked dreadnought, every last one of them slaved to the single task of transforming the aging battleship into a form more fitting to its counterfeited purpose.

In truth, the Ganymedian military base was little more than a refueling station and listening post with only an intermittent human presence even in normal times, although the base did have an attached shipyard equipped for basic repairs and nominal refitting. At that precise moment, however, there were only two humans between ship and station, both of them on the dreadnought itself.

"I have actually always suspected the universe of a sense of humor," Lieutenant Erik Manstein remarked as he ran the power systems through another diagnostic cycle.

Piers Turchin looked up. "Excuse me?" The macrosociologist was a tall man with thin features, the former evidence of an upbringing in the microgravity of one of Jupiter's great moons; the latter evidence of a predisposition to lack of sleep and care towards regular nutritional habits.

Erik nodded at the screen, the visual relayed from one of the external cameras. "The base here, at Urda, is named after one of the Norns from Norse mythology. Urd means 'Fate', and refers to that Norn who knows the pasts of all things. Given the stolen registry we are refitting our warhorse of a dreadnought to pretend to be, I find that particularly amusing."

Piers chuckled. "Ah. Yes. Valkyrie is rather appropriate, given that. Hopefully that will be an auspicious sign for this noble venture of ours."

"To be sure. We only need to make a mothballed dreadnought into a Ganymedian ship pretending to be a Callistan ship pretending to be a Ganymedian ship, all for the preposterous purpose of destroying a flotilla belonging to our would-be Europan allies to drive said would-be allies into our very, very welcoming arms. What could possibly go wrong?"

Piers did not deign to answer. Instead he called up a schematic of the main hangar bay onto the main screen. He pointed at one side. "I wanted to ask you about something. What exactly are you doing here?"

"Ah, that. I had a bit of an idea there. Instead of integrating the artificials directly into the dreadnought's own mainframe, I have directed the refit drones to gut eleven of the dreadnought's combat drones of C&C modules, munitions, HED capacitors, all that kind of thing, and just pack the artificial's own transit mainframes, one to one into a drone."

"Not sure I'm seeing the advantage."

Erik ticked off points on his fingers. "Several, actually. First, we don't have to risk messing with the dreadnought's own mainframe directly. Given that it's not exactly a spring chicken, that minimizes opportunities for complications, meaning delays. Second, if something goes wrong we can simply destruct the drones, and any Europan analysis of the wreckage won't result in them wondering why exactly we were flying this old bird with a bunch of artificials. Third, the drones have their own power systems, so scans of the power net on the Valkyrie won't flag any alerts."

The macrosociologist opened his mouth to speak, but stopped as his terminal chimed.

Fiction: "Stand"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 18.4.2470
++++ TIME 14:56 VST
++++ LOCATION Ammavaru Aerostat, Lada Terra Stake

Paavo Rebane, Speaker for the Venusian Parliament, rapped his ceremonial gavel. "Mr. Schulz, we thank you for your words." He cleared his throat. "Science Director Adelaide Karga of the Neu Sif aerostat has the floor. You have fifteen minutes, ma'am."

Adelaide stood. "Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will, however, only need ten." There was a murmur through the chamber. Adelaide smiled faintly. The first rule of politics is to keep your enemies off-balance.

"Ladies and gentlemen of Parliament, you have now heard from a parade of, let me count...eight advocates for moving forward the bill to begin first phase implementation of terraforming. That is close to two hours of time the rest of us were desperately fighting not to fall asleep during. I confess I failed at least twice."

Laughter. Good. Wake them up.

"Science Deputy Director Maria Becker from Zisa would have you think that the issue before us is primarily a logistical issue. A financial problem that can be solved with financial tools. An issue of how. An issue of when.

"She is wrong. This bill is a death sentence. If not for you, then for your children." The rumbling in the chamber grew louder, and her implant was throwing up a stream of red flags derived from the popular media livefeeds. Adelaide continued, "They tell me I am the Science Director for the Neu Sif aerostat." More laughter. "So I supposed I should start with some science just to prove it."

Adelaide keyed the display in the center of the chamber. A holographic representation of Venus flickered into existence. Incredibly detailed, it was even possible to pick out individual aerostats, although of course that was a display trick; Venus' atmosphere was far too thick to see the aerostats, even 50 kilometers up from the surface where they circled the tarteran world.

"There is no place in the solar system more accommodating to human life than where we stand now, besides, of course, Earth herself." A murmur of dissent rippled through the chamber. She could even see some of the nearer MPs rolling their eyes.

"No? Then consider. Where else in the solar system is there true 1g of gravity. Mars? No. Luna? Hardly. Europa? Please. What about atmospheric pressure? If your station hull breaches on Ceres, you die. If an aerostat hull breaches here, your oxygen gauge barely moves, and maybe someone gets around to patching the hole in a few hours. We don't have explosive decompression here - we have, well, non-explosive slow leaks."

More laughter.

Fiction: "The Red Bicycle"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 18.11.2042
++++ TIME 8:03am Pacific Standard Time
++++ LOCATION Los Angeles, United States of America

Ben Walsh pulled out the tiny notebook, placing it on the table as he slid the chewed pen off the binding. He flipped it open two-thirds of the way through, the dense handwriting almost unreadable at that size, but with paper as expensive as it was, efficiency and economy were simply facts of life. Ben squinted, and with a unconscious shake of his head scratched out two lines, redoing the math.

"Please tell me you aren't still thinking of doing this, Ben."

Ben looked up, pen spinning absently in his fingers. "I have to. Someone has to. We can't afford all of us here, Cian."

Cian shook his head. "Dad doesn't want to see you dead, either. This is crazy."

"I'm not planning on being dead. I'm not naive about how hard this will be, but it's doable. I've run the numbers a hundred times." Ben tapped the page he was on. "I don't think the Sierras are realistic, though. It'll have to be the coastal route. There's no way I can take 67 pounds of gear and supplies over those and maintain anything close to a reasonable time. I'll travel early morning and evening, hole up during the night and the middle of the day to keep my water loss from heat to a minimum. Also reduce chance of running into local police looking for a quick score."

"You don't even have a bike, Ben," Cian said, exasperated.

"Not yet. Murray's is still for sale."

"Eight hundred dollars you don't have."

"I will. Somehow. I have almost everything else ready. Just need to pick up a case of MREs tonight, and the bike will be the last thing. I have five hundred. Murray's not even using it. He's got to see sense."

Cian rubbed the bridge of his nose, screwing his eyes shut for a moment as he considered his words. "Okay, say I believe you. Convince me again how this isn't suicide."

"Alright," Ben said, flipping back through his notebook. "It's 1003 miles from here to Ashland taking a mostly coastal route. Up through Ojai through the Los Padres, circle around San Luis from the north, then take the 101 or anything parallel I can find through San Jose. From there, using the 101 as the primary route, I cut through the 199 after Crescent City to cross the border. With 67 pounds of weight, I should be able to comfortably make about fifty miles a day, maybe more, which'll make it about three weeks."

"They'll still have community watch patrols at the Oregon border, even there."

"Yeah, but there are a few fire roads running parallel. It won't be easy, but I can cut across them, then carry the bike overland. Worst case, it shouldn't be more than about a mile or two from what I can tell on the map," Ben said.